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MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – "Do not play God and shut up."
This was President Rodrigo Duterte's advice to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales in response to her criticism of his threats to kill criminals.
Duterte, on Monday, July 17, said Morales "blew her top" in a recent interview with a Japanese television network and "castigated" him in public.
For her critical statements, Duterte described her as a defender of criminals and even told her to control what she says.
"Since when did you anoint yourself spokesman of the criminals? Rendahan mo bunganga mo kasi may problema (Rein in your mouth because there is a problem)," he said.
The President challenged Morales to name a law which says merely threatening criminals is illegal.
"Find me a law which says I cannot threaten a criminal with death... If you can do that, I will step down tomorrow," he said. (READ: Ombudsman took Duterte kill threats 'out of context' – Palace)
In classic Duterte style, he said the Office of the Ombudsman has its own wrongs to atone for and thus should not go about criticizing him.
"Bakit 'yang Ombudsman, hindi corrupt? Tanong mo mga may kaso diyan," he said. (Why, the Ombudsman isn't corrupt? Ask those with cases there.)
Duterte implied that he himself had firsthand experience of shady dealings with the Office of the Ombudsman when he was a Davao City prosecutor.
The office, he said, has been bad news for low-level government workers who end up facing corruption charges for merely complying with instructions from higher-ups who tell them to sign shady documents.
"You listen, maybe you don't know this. When a mayor says 'sign,' the treasurer will sign. When you tell the chief of police what to do, he'll say 'Yes, sir.' They don't have a choice. It's only the mayor who's corrupt then you file charges against everyone," Duterte said in Filipino.
He likened Morales to former United States president Barack Obama who he previously cursed for criticizing his bloody drug war.
"Hirap na nga ako dito, mag-Obama ka?" Duterte said. (I'm having a hard time here and you pull an Obama?)
Standing by her remarks
The Office of the Ombudsman, in response, said Morales stands by her remarks.
"She stands by her answer to the NHK's question which she says is correct. Her answer was 'goading people to kill irrespective of the context is, to me, unacceptable,'" the Office of the Ombudsman said in a statement on Monday.
It added that Morales is "amused by so much ado about something she did not say."
"She did not say anything about any law against threatening criminals. The President should review what she said first. Beyond this the Ombudsman does not find it necessary to say anything more."
Morales' family has ties to Duterte, by marriage. The Ombudsman's brother, lawyer Lucas Carpio Jr, is married to Court of Appeals (CA) Associate Justice Agnes Reyes Carpio. The Carpios are the parents-in-law of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of the President.
Morales is the latest official that Duterte has slammed for criticizing his anti-drug campaign. He has ranted against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senator Leila de Lima, Obama, former United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, former Colombian president Cesar Gaviria, and UN rapporteur Agnes Callamard. – with reports from Lian Buan / Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.